A Catholic writer said Facebook recently banned a quotation he posted by St. Augustine of Hippo — a Catholic theologian who died in the 5th century and has been called "perhaps the most significant Christian thinker after St. Paul" — and called it "hate speech."
Dominic Bettinelli — director of community engagement for Massachusetts Citizens for Life — wrote that the quotation is from a St. Augustine sermon "contained in the official liturgical books of the Catholic Church as part of the Office of Readings for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Office)."
Be ye prepared for the hate
Here's the quotation, Bettinelli said:
Let us never assume that if we live good lives we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon. But men are hopeless creatures, and the less they concentrate on their own sins, the more interested they become in the sins of others. They seek to criticize, not to correct. Unable to excuse themselves, they are ready to accuse others.
With that, Bettinelli said Facebook issued him a notice that the post "goes against our community standards on hate speech."
'It's the opposite of hate speech'
"Hate speech?" Bettinelli noted in his piece. "It's the opposite of hate speech. It's calling for people to stop focusing on others' sins and concentrate on their own. Augustine is just re-formulating Jesus' own words from the Gospel: 'Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?' (Matthew 7:3)."
Bettinelli appealed to have a human review his post, and he said it was still rejected as hate speech.
Invited by Facebook to respond to his rejected appeal, Bettinelli did his best to point out the obvious:
I still don't understand why this is hate speech. It's a quote from a Catholic saint who expresses the opposite of hate speech. He is essentially restating the words of Jesus Christ in the Gospels to stop worrying about what the other guy is or isn't doing and worry about your own flaws. Is Facebook saying that the Gospel is hate speech? But what's worse is that I have no more understanding now of what is a violation of your community standards than I did before. I cannot for the life of me figure out why you label this hate speech.
He told LifeSiteNews that Facebook banned a friend's post, which contained only the following sentence of the Augustine quotation, "Men are hopeless creatures." Bettinelli said that sentence "seems to be the relevant part that is hate speech."
'Worst kind of rule'
Bettinelli noted that he's feeling the sting of "the worst kind of rule: Where you don't know where the line is. At this point, I don't even know what kind of post will land me a suspension because there's no clear indicator of why this quote is a violation, but others aren't. It's completely arbitrary and capricious."
More from his piece:
Imagine a law that was passed that had the same arbitrary vagueness. Let's say, the law said, "If you drive too fast you'll get a ticket," but it doesn't say what "too fast" means. Maybe for one policeman it's 30 mph and another it's 50 for the same stretch of road. It's madness.
Even if this was just one person with a grudge against Christians and not a badly programmed algorithm, it's still a stultifying suppression of free speech in what has become a public square run by a private company. When you can't be certain whether your ability to say things that would be constitutionally protected on a public street will get you banned from the platform that a supermajority of people in the United States use as their platform of daily free expression, it doesn't bode well for where we are going.
As a conservative, I'm biased against government intervention into free enterprise. But I also recognize that sometimes regulation and legislation are necessary to protect the rights of citizens against the agendas of certain groups of people or corporations. I'm starting to lean toward the necessity of the US government regulating social media firms as public utilities. Because Big Brother isn't just from the government any more.